Former Reading striker Dave Kitson says mental health struggles made him want to give up football in his 20s and warns the game is facing an “epidemic”.
The ex-Portsmouth, Stoke and Cambridge player, 39, retired in 2014 after scoring 145 goals in a 13-year career.
“We’re at the tip of the iceberg,” Kitson told BBC Radio Berkshire.
“Now we’re a lot better at dealing with this, we know how to get players help, but back then no-one said anything, let alone had to deal with it.”
Kitson, who says he “still takes an awful lot of medication to get through the day”, has suffered with mental health problems since the age of 13.
And he pointed to a pre-season tour of South Korea with Reading in 2007 as his lowest point.
“On that tour I just completely fell apart,” he said.
“I absolutely lost the plot and had to confide in [Reading managers] Brian McDermott, then Steve Coppell, but we didn’t know how to deal with these things.”
It was after scoring 22 goals in The Royals’ 2005-06 Championship-winning season that Kitson felt he wanted to leave the game behind.
“I should have stopped right there and then; I would have been a much happier person. I’d done everything for Reading that I wanted to do.
“I carried on for another year and then I told Steve and Brian that’s enough. I’m 27, or 28, and I’ve properly had a gutful of this, for my own peace of mind I need to go and do something completely different.
“I sat down and had a proper breakdown, and Clare [his wife] said don’t do it. You’re clearly not happy, and I kicked my heels for a couple of weeks, then you get dragged in don’t you, it’s football.”
Kitson would continue playing until 2014, finishing his career with Sheffield United and Oxford,
“There’s so many people invested in you, the club, the fans, the agents, the family, so many people are relying on you that it made it almost impossible [to retire],” he added.
“But that is a regret, you talk about regrets, that is a regret.”